Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

If you missed the news, you might be surprised to hear that Iowa had hurricane-like winds last week. The storm descended without notice bringing destruction and a wide-spread loss of power. For days, hundreds of thousands of people struggled to complete everyday tasks in addition to regaining structure and routine.

Photo: Iowa Trollnadoes on Twitter

Our acreage sits on top of a hill with a range of buildings and trees. We watched the walnut tree topple, the apple tree split, and pieces of leaves, like confetti, fly vertically, attaching themselves to windows, siding, and doors. It was an awesome show of strength and power.

By God's grace, the tallest, oldest, strongest trees were untouched. Our oaks trees--one shielding the house, one hosting a tree swing--remained unscathed. You may think of the deep, wide root structure as the reason for their preservation and yes, they are well-established. But that is not the answer. Instead, a hundred yards to the west, a treeline of younger, wispier trees stood guard. Violence hit the strategically-planted front guard and spared what lay on the other side.

In the same way, God calls us to watch over, or guard, our heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). If I do not value my heart, if I do not see it as vulnerable and weak, I will not guard it. Our oak trees and 1911-vintage home have a degree of strength--but they are not able to withstand seasonal storms on their own. Knowing that, we have spent time, money and effort to maintain a physical buffer. Likewise, our hearts, central to life, family, ministry, dreams, plans, and future, require care and protection. 

How do we guard our hearts? In reality, we are incapable of doing it ourselves. Worries, insecurity, obligations and responsibilities weigh us down, creating dangerous openings for doubt, despair, and fear. We fail to guard our hearts because our trust is in our own efforts--or the failed efforts of others and capricious nature of circumstances. God calls us to trust Him. To call out to and depend on Him. He alone can effectively guard our hearts and minds from the storms of life. Are they destructive? Yes. Damaging and difficult? Yes. But only to the extent that God is using them to reveal Himself and our need for Him.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)